Sororities cancel mixers, Sigma Nu announces reforms due to concerns over fraternity’s culture
The reforms come as two sororities canceled social events with Sigma Nu, after conversations about the fraternity’s broader culture
Lucy Hodgman Photo
Two Yale sororities have canceled upcoming social events with Yale’s Sigma Nu chapter and one is considering the change amid concerns over the fraternity’s culture.
In response, Yale’s chapter of the Sigma Nu fraternity has instituted a series of steps designed to improve safety and accountability within the organization. The fraternity announced that its executive board would hold elections to replace all leadership positions, institute safety policies for social events and establish an honor board responsible for handling allegations of sexual misconduct. Sigma Nu leadership announced these changes in a Tuesday night email sent to the presidents of Yale’s Alpha Phi, Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Alpha Theta sororities. The email was obtained by the News.
“We have been deeply disturbed by the concerns raised about the culture of our fraternity and the behavior of some of our members,” the email reads. “The complaints speak to our character as an organization and we are in the process of instituting a series of crucial changes.”
These decisions come in the wake of Yale’s sororities reconsidering their social engagement with Sigma Nu. The conversations stemmed from an encounter at the Sigma Nu house on Friday night between a student in a sorority and a student affiliated with Sigma Nu — both of whom have since told the News that the interaction was consensual.
Still, in response to the event, three sororities started up conversations regarding Sigma Nu’s broader culture and handling of alleged sexual misconduct. According to messages obtained by the News, the leadership of the Yale Alpha Phi sorority confirmed to members on Monday afternoon that the semester’s remaining events with Sigma Nu would be canceled.
Yale Kappa Alpha Theta president Meghan Backoo ’23 told the News that, in line with the sorority’s national policy, Yale’s Theta chapter would be canceling coming events with Sigma Nu. In a statement to the News, Backoo said the cancellation came after the sorority became aware of “practices that jeopardize the safety of guests in social spaces on campus.”
“For the well-being of our members, we must reevaluate our relationships with those social groups in violation,” the statement reads. “Through these actions and policies Theta intends to advance positive social climates that Yale women enter into, as the safety and empowerment of our broader Yale community are of the utmost importance.”
Yale Pi Beta Phi president Annabel Sotomi ’22 told the News that they are holding a chapter-wide meeting tonight to discuss whether to cancel the semester’s remaining social events with Sigma Nu.
Title IX Coordinator Stephanie Spangler referred the News to the Title IX Sexual Misconduct Guide when asked for comment on the University’s policies on misconduct in Greek life.
In a statement to the News, the Sigma Nu executive board affirmed the fraternity’s commitment to ensuring a safe environment within the chapter.
“Sigma Nu is committed to being a safe and inclusive space for everyone on campus, and we are working with our partner organizations to fully investigate and understand all concerns,” the statement reads. “That commitment and understanding will guide and determine our actions, including any appropriate disciplinary, educational, and/or operational responses.”
Sigma Nu President Adam Rothman ’22 referred the News to this statement.
Representatives from Sigma Nu declined to comment to the News about whether the reforms were related to the sororities’ ongoing conversations around canceling social events with the fraternity.
However, a current member of Sigma Nu, who requested anonymity due to potential repercussions due to his ties with the fraternity, said that he believes the proposed changes came as a direct result of the sororities canceling mixers.
“If Yale’s sororities hadn’t decided to cancel all future mixers, I don’t think any actions would have been taken to reverse the direction the organization’s culture is headed, so it’s hard for me to accept the sincerity of those actions,” the Sigma Nu member wrote in an email to the News.
The member added that he was unaware of any organized disciplinary system previously in place within Sigma Nu to check inappropriate behavior.
As part of their reforms, Sigma Nu members announced in the email that they will hold elections for all leadership positions “in the coming days.”
“These elections will give our fraternity the opportunity to implement these reforms with a clean slate of leaders committed to changing the culture of our space,” the email said.
According to the current member, Sigma Nu presidents typically fulfill the role for the spring semester of their junior year and fall semester of their senior year. Rothman has been president since the start of the spring 2021 semester, with the newly-announced elections cutting his term short.
In addition, Sigma Nu will implement an honor board consisting of eight members, several of whom have served on the Title IX Undergraduate Advisory Board, according to the email. An anonymous reporting form will be made available prior to all social events, enabling anyone at the event to file a complaint to the honor board.
“The Board functions with the purpose of collecting information related to misconduct claims, investigating the complaint, deliberating on appropriate actions, and enforcing necessary punishments,” the email reads. “At each and every step, input from the complainant and/or their points of contact will be critical. Investigations and deliberations will expressly hinge on the comments made by the complainant, their representatives, and their points of contact.”
The email also said that Sigma Nu will establish new safety policies for social events, including designated “sober monitors,” options for drinks that are low in alcohol or nonalcoholic, the inclusion of TIPS certified bartenders, a more “respectful and consistent” presence at the door of the fraternity during events, “bathrooms designated to affiliated organizations” and trainings tailored toward a fraternity setting discussing alcohol, consent and bystander intervention, held in collaboration with Yale’s Community and Consent Educators program.
As an additional reform, Sigma Nu said in its email that the organization is planning to take disciplinary action against all of their members who appear on other organizations’ blacklists — lists of individuals who are barred from entering social events. Sigma Nu plans to place such members on social suspension until they can conduct an internal investigation, according to the email.
Still, the anonymous member expressed concerns that the reform may not address a broader culture problem within the fraternity.
“I think the boy’s club culture of Sigma Nu that prioritizes mixers and masculinity has come to a head and the sororities on campus are realizing it,” the member told the News. “I hope this culture changes, because, as it stands, this is not an organization I am proud to say I’m a part of.”
Sigma Nu did not respond to requests to comment on the member’s allegations.
The Sigma Nu house is located at 37 High St.
Update Oct. 13, The News has updated the story to clarify that Yale’s chapter of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority would cancel social events with the Sigma Nu fraternity until sorority members felt that a “positive culture shift” had taken place and the sorority’s standards had been met, per the Theta President’s statement.